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The Atlanta Hawks: Halfway to the finish line

And currently still livin’ on that prayer for the number one pick this summer...

Atlanta Hawks v Cleveland Cavaliers Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images

Wednesday night not only marks the end of the Atlanta Hawks grueling, five-game Western Conference road trip in Denver but it also marks the official halfway mark of Atlanta’s season: 41 games.

For some, it has all gone to plan and for others the end of the season can’t come soon enough because it hasn’t been pretty: 10-30 on the season which is the worst record in the league.

When the Hawks started off the season, we looked at some of the numbers behind the Hawks’ 1-6 start and we found that, though the Hawks had struggled, there were some encouraging signs, such as the three-point percentage.

For reference (and for comparison), here were the numbers and where they ranked amongst the rest of the league at that time:

Atlanta Hawks early season stats

Category Hawks League Ranking
Category Hawks League Ranking
PPG 99.6 25th
FG% 42.4 28th
3PA 26 21st
3PM (per game) 9.7 19th
3P% 37.4 8th
FTA 19.1 25th
FTM 16.4 19th
FT% 85.80% 1st
Rebounds 41.6 24th
Offensive Rebounds 9 23rd
2nd Chance Points 11.6 20th
Assists 20.9 21st
Turnovers 14.4 5th
Points off Turnovers 18.6 8th
Steals 9 7th
Blocks 3.4 26th
Fastbreak Points 7.3 24th
Bench Points 40.3 7th
Starter Points 59.3 28th
PITP (Points in the paint) 36.9 28th
Offensive rating 99.2 24th
Defensive rating 105 18th
Net rating -5.8 23rd
Pace 101.46 12th
Stats courtesy of NBA.com and are correct prior to fixtures on October 30th 2017

A whole lot of time and a whole lot of losses have racked up since then. So how’s it looking now? Let’s look at some of the basic numbers and where they rank amongst the league now and then talk about some of the ones that stand out:

Atlanta Hawks mid-season numbers

Cateogry (per game) Atlanta Hawks League Ranking
Cateogry (per game) Atlanta Hawks League Ranking
PPG 103.8 19th
FG% 45.20% Tied 20th
3PA 29 Tied 16th
3PM (Made) 10.9 12th
3P% 37.50% 7th
FTA 20.4 21st
FTM 16 19th
FT% 78.30% 10th
Rebounds 40.4 Tied 26th
Offensive rebounds 9.9 Tied 12th
2nd chance points 12.8 13th
Assists 23.6 5th
Turnovers 15.5 23rd
Points off of turnovers 18.7 Tied for 2nd
Fastbreak points 9.9 Tied for 20th
Points in the paint 41.2 26th
Steals 8.5 6th
Blocks 4.2 Tied 23rd
Starters points 64.3 22nd
Bench points 39.5 9th
Offensive rating 104 Tied 17th
Defensive rating 108.4 26th
Net rating -4.4 26th
Plus/Minus -4.7 26th
Pace 99.72 13th
Opponent FG% 47.7 Tied 30th
Opponent 3PM 11.6 28th
Opponent 3P% 37.50% 24th
Opponent Off. Rebounds 10.8 29th
Opponent turnovers 16.4 1st
Opponent points 108.5 25th
Stats courtesy of NBA.com and are correct prior to Atlanta’s Wednesday night game vs. Denver (January 10th)

There’s a lot to take in and digest, and most of it very self explanatory, but there’s a few things that stand out...

Three-point shooting

What’s most surprising here (to me at least) is probably the fact that the Hawks’ three-point shooting has been able to sustain throughout this season so far and not just an early season trend — it was 37% after seven games and it’s still 37% after 40 games.

Marco Belinelli has come back down to earth shooting the three (shooting 38.5% from three) and so has Taurean Prince, but TP is still shooting over 41% from three. We knew TP wasn’t going to shoot 50/55% from three for the whole season but the fact he’s still shooting over 41% from behind the arc is fantastic. Prince is arguably the Hawks’ most consistent three-point shooter: everyone else can be up or down, but TP is usually consistent with his three-point shot.

Kent Bazemore and Ersan Ilyasova’s percentages have come up too: just under 39% for Ersan for the season and a career-best 38.4% for Baze.

The Hawks’ three-point numbers may have even ranked higher were it not for Dennis Schröder’s 28.5% shooting season from three on just under four attempts a game. Dennis has really struggled from three of late but that is just a deplorable percentage for that many attempts.

In fact, amongst all starting guards who have played at least 25 games, play at least 15 minutes a game and attempt 1.5 or more three-pointers a game, Dennis is dead last in three-point percentage. Yep. Dennis is shooting worse from three than Ricky Rubio, Lonzo Ball, Reggie Jackson and Dennis Smith Jr. to name a few. Not great.

Do I think this will last? No. Even though Dennis is not a good three-point shooter, he isn’t 28% bad. Thankfully, it hasn’t affected the Hawks’ three-point percentage too much and they’ve shot it well despite that.

Assists/ball movement

It’s encouraging to see those assists numbers: 23 a game ranking 5th in the league.

It was a bit of a down year for the Hawks last season when it came to ball movement (finishing 10th in assists last season) and this was partly due to the isolation nature of the roster with guys like Dwight Howard, Dennis Schröder, Tim Hardaway Jr., Malcolm Delaney at times and Paul Millsap at times, who would literally have to take over for stretches at times when no one else around him could get anything going in some games.

While Dennis and Malcolm are still around, the rest of those guys are gone and the Hawks have had to rely on more ball movement this season — Hawks rank second in passes per game with 338 per game. Only the Philadelphia 76ers make more passes per game. That said, the Hawks are tied for 29th in secondary assists with just 2.2 secondary assists per game. A secondary assist is a pass that leads to an assist within two seconds and one dribble.

The Hawks being 5th in assists per game does surprise me somewhat, because Dennis — though he’s averaging 6.5 assists per game — isn’t exactly the greatest when it comes to playmaking for others throughout the course of a game and he has a tendency to look after himself first before the team (he was especially bad against the L.A. Clippers recently, taking many ill advised shots when he would’ve been better off passing/running the offense).

That’s fine for most teams (Schröder is also the Hawks’ best offensive player) but in a ball movement offense you’d like him to share the ball a bit more. Yes, 6.5 assists is decent on paper but this is more about the eye-test, what you see on the court. Numbers don’t always tell the full story...

Elsewhere, Baze continues to facilitate at a solid level: 3.8 assists per game. Sometimes there are some less than ideal turnovers Baze commits when handling the ball but in general he has been solid handling the ball and making plays for others, particularly out of the pick-and-roll.

After that, it’s all about everyone chipping in — Taurean Prince: 2.5 APG. Isaiah Taylor: 2.3 APG, Malcolm Delaney: 2.3 APG and Marco Belinelli: 2.1 APG etc.

Points off turnovers

The Hawks are amongst the elite in scoring points off of turnovers, scoring 18.7 points per game off of opponents turnovers — tied for second in the league, only trailing the Toronto Raptors.

Again, similar to the assists, the Hawks regressed in this category last season — tied for 13th with 16.3 points off of turnovers per game. In 2015-16, the Hawks ranked 4th with 18.5 points off of turnovers. Only .4 of a point separated the Hawks from the very top in this category.

Partly coinciding with this are the steals the Hawks average per game: 8.5 per game which ranks 6th in the league. In fact, the Hawks rank number one in the league when it comes to opponent turnovers per game at 16.7.

When you can prevent your opponent from getting a shot up and can turn that into a shot for yourself, that adds up and can make a huge difference over the course of a game.

For example, in the Hawks’ recent game against the Clippers, they took nine more shots than the Clippers (96-85). Now, part of that was because they grabbed 19 offensive rebounds but in that game the Hawks scored 27 points off of the Clippers’ 16 turnovers.

When you turn the ball over, you lose the opportunity to take/make a shot on that possession — one less shot for the Clippers that they could take and an opportunity for the Hawks to add one more to their total. This gave the Hawks a great chance to win that game but they ultimately fell short.

Not a lot is given to you in this league but when it is in the form of a turnover you (the Hawks also put themselves in good positions to force turnovers) have to take advantage of that opportunity, especially if you’re a team like the Hawks who are struggling and will happily take anything they can.

Rebounding/second chance points

Hey, do you remember the 2014-15 and the 2015-16 Atlanta Hawks? The ones that seemed to fight far, far harder than they should’ve for every defensive rebound only to still give up 20 offensive rebounds?

Welcome to a lesser extent of that!

The Hawks rank 26th in rebounds per game and opponents snatch nearly 11 offensive rebounds per game — only the Golden State Warriors allow more offensive rebounds per game. This helps towards the large number of second chance points the Hawks allow per game: 14 — only the L.A. Lakers allow more second chance points per game.

There’s a few things to consider here.

Dewayne Dedmon’s injury/absence and the limited minutes Miles Plumlee plays, as well as the Hawks wanting to run some shooting lineups to surround Dennis with, has resulted in the Hawks playing small often and opposing teams have exploited this. With Dedmon now back into the fold — and surely back into the starting lineup soon — this shouldn’t be as much of a problem for the Hawks as it has been over the past month in his absence.

We shall see.

Opponent stats/defense

Here’s what has let the Hawks down consistently this season: defense.

25th in opponent points per game, tied for 30th in opponent field goal percentage, 28th in opponent three-point percentage, 24th in opponent three-point makes and 26th in defensive rating...

The Hawks are just not a good defensive team.

This isn’t a Mike Budenholzer thing. Mike Budenholzer teams are usually good, if not very good, defensive teams. In his time with the Hawks, here’s how the Hawks have ranked defensively: 14th (without Al Horford for a lot of that season), 7th, 2nd and 4th.

The only Budenholzer thing that’s going on here with regard to defense is the opponent three-point makes/percentages etc. We know that the Hawks give up quite a number of threes per game (especially against Cleveland, whoo boy...) and we know that it’s a by-product of the defensive scheme the Hawks implore, but this hasn’t been as much of a problem this season as it was last season.

But when it comes to the defense as a whole and why it’s this bad, it’s personnel.

Though his effort has been better of late, Dennis Schröder has, generally, been absolutely atrocious defensively: a team worst 111.9 defensive rating, and the Hawks’ defensive rating with Schröder off the floor is 102.9. To put it simply, the Hawks a lot better defensively when Dennis is off the floor.

Marco Belinelli hasn’t been a whole lot better defensively — a defensive rating of 111.1, which is second worst on the team, just behind Dennis. Similar to Dennis, the Hawks are better defensively when Marco isn’t on the floor: 105.9.

Together (in a two-man lineup) Schröder and Belinelli combine for a defensive rating of 118.2 and a net rating of -15.8.

It’s worth pointing out that no one has been exceptional defensively for the Hawks this season (Isaiah Taylor has been pretty good and Malcolm Delaney has been solid defensively too), and it has been a huge part of why the Hawks have lost many, many games.


All in all, there are a few things the Hawks have done pretty well/very well this season but a lot of it is countered by the Hawks’ poor defense.

With the trade deadline also fast approaching — and the Hawks almost certainly set to be active in the next month — some of Atlanta’s better players could be set to be dealt away and who knows where it will leave the Hawks.

Only time will tell.